I’ve been planning on writing about this ever since I ran a poll on whether or not you sneak food or drinks into the movie theater, but I never got around to it. However, we recently went to Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (or P3 as my oldest son likes to call it) and that got me to thinking about it once again…
Have you ever wondered how theaters make money? Well, according to a slightly dated article from CNN/Money:
“Most of the money from ticket sales goes back to the movie studio… During the film’s opening week, the studio might take 70 to 80 percent of gross box office sales. By the fifth or sixth week, the percentage the studio takes will likely shrink to about 35 percent.”
Of course, studios also pay theaters to run trailers (generally on a per head basis), and the ads that are shown on the screen before the movie (or mixed in with the trailers) are another source of income. But according to Howard Edelman, owner of Movieland Cinemas:
“Owners joke about being in the candy business. If you didn’t have concessions at a movie theater, there would be no movie theater. We have movies just to get people in to buy popcorn and candy, where we make our money.”
In fact, concessions are so profitable that outside companies will sometimes pay an up-front fee for the privilege of running the concession stand and splitting the profits with the theater owner.
So does this change my view of sneaking snacks into the theater? Not really. The day we went to see P3, the theater was well over half empty. Even if the owners were getting a small cut, say 20-30% of the ticket prices, they still pocketed $6-$9 from our $30 matinee ticket purchase (plus a bit of extra cash from having a few additional butts in the seats for the trailers). Had we skipped the theater, they still wouldn’t have sold any additional concessions, our seats would have been empty, and they would’ve ended up missing out the ticket revenue entirely.
Am I rationalizing? Sure, I guess you could say that. Could we have simply skipped the snack? Yep, but we rarely go to the theater, and when we do we like to live it up a bit. Besides, it’s not like theaters have a plethora of healthy snack choices at the concession stand. In the end, I view it as a win-win situation.